Comprehensive Regulatory Framework for Private Schools Needed

Comprehensive Regulatory Framework for Private Schools Needed

The only thing that played on Karan Bahadur’s mind was the education of his three children. He and his wife, Seema, ran a tea stall from their home in Kachnavan village in Raebareli; that was their only source of income. The children — elder daughter in 12th, son in 10th, and the youngest girl in 3rd — were enrolled in a nearby private school, in the hope of getting them good quality education.

For Karan Bahadur and Seema, getting their children the best possible education was their one point agenda. A private school looked like their best option. In 2015-16, the government school in their neighbourhood had only two teachers for 214 enrolled children; these two teachers were managing everything in the school. According to the RTE Act, there should have been at least seven teachers and an head teacher. The numbers of teacher remained the same the following year, even when the enrolment increased by a student.

The tea stall was their only source of income. They earned Rs 3000 a month; the school fee for all three of them was Rs 2170. In order to meet their needs, Karan Bahadur decided to move to Ludhiana in Punjab and work at a bicycle factory. He took his elder daughter along with him and got her admission in a private college so that she could pursue her graduation. He was hired for 7000 Rs but started doing overtime so that he could pay his daughter’s fees; he had to make an initial deposit of Rs 12000 for the college. Back home Seema continued the tea stall and ensured the other two kids continued with school.

This seemed like a good plan until Karan Bahadur fell sick. He still continued to work but his health deteriorated further. He returned to his village with his daughter. The family couldn’t bear the expenses of his treatment. In fact they spent all the money they had received from the government for the construction of toilet, in arranging for medicines. He died. He was just 42 years old.

So they are back to where they started — Seema continues to run the tea stall. With the lockdown however, the sale of tea has decreased sharply. And with no respite in the fees, she is finding it difficult to make ends meet. The elder daughter is studying at home and filled her Bachelor of Arts form. The son is in 12th now; the youngest had to be admitted to a low fee private school nearby to cut costs. She still has to shell out Rs 1300 every month as fees. The children continue to help Seema with the tea stall when they are back from school.

It is commendable that Seema continues to send her children to school. In the event of the parents being unable to pay the fee, children are often withdrawn from school and these out of school children could end up as child labour.

After the lockdown, the State Collective for Right to Education (SCoRE) conducted a rapid survey with parents and teachers that revealed that 50% of parents whose children are studying in private schools have to spend more than 20% of their income on school education. 56% parents stated that schools have hiked fee in upcoming academic year despite the lockdown. And 21% schools have hiked fee equal to 10% or more. Despite Government order, 18% parents shared that schools have forced parents to pay the fee; 83% parents mentioned that schools have not offered any flexibility in making fee payments during the lockdown.

At present there are no any regulatory mechanisms to control functioning and unjustified management of private schools. At the same time there is no proper grievance redressal mechanism for parents of children enrolled in private schools. So while on the one hand there is a need to spruce up the government schools and make them RTE compliant, on the other hand there is a need to regulate private schools.

Oxfam India is running a campaign #RightsOverProfits to put a stop to overcharging and profiteering by private schools. It is a burden on people, especially when nearly 12 crore people in India have lost their jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic. Raise your voice for what is right. 

Sign the petition:

- with Inputs from Amrat Lal, Lokmitra.

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